HC Deb 03 November 1947 vol 443 cc1316-8
15. Mr. Baker White

asked the Minister of Food what proportion of the 1947 Channel Island crop of early potatoes was processed or tinned.

Dr. Summerskill

Some canning took place in Jersey and about 32 tons were processed after arrival in this country. There are no official figures.

19. Sir W. Smithers

asked the Minister of Food how many buyers he employs to go round the country to buy potatoes; whether the potato account of his Department shows a profit or a loss; what is the amount; and how many tons of potatoes have been bought and paid for, of which delivery has not been taken.

Dr. Summerskill

One hundred and sixty-one potato supervisors and 555 merchant-agents buy potatoes from growers on behalf of my Department. The subsidy paid to reduce retail prices caused the potato account to show a deficit of about £18½ million for the year ended 31st March, 1947. Of the 945,848 tons of ware and 36,114 tons of seed potatoes of the 1946 crop bought by the Ministry, 242 tons of ware were lost by deterioration, for which my Department accepted responsibility and paid £1,496; and 16,360 tons of ware by flooding, for which compensation of £60,945 was paid.

Sir W. Smithers

Does the hon. Lady really believe that any private firm could exist for a week or two without going into bankruptcy under such conditions? Is she further aware that I know of two or three cases of potatoes bought by her Ministry, and paid for, but of which delivery was never taken, and I cannot get the people to give their names and addresses because of fear of victimisation?

Dr. Summerskill

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if he cares to press these people and will let me have the names and addresses, we will be able to refute that charge.

37. Mr. Collins

asked the Minister of Food if in order to augment the available supply of potatoes he will endeavour to purchase a substantial portion of the Moroccan crop, either by direct purchase or through the ordinary trade channels.

Dr. Summerskill

Arrangements have already been made for early potatoes to be imported from Morocco under individual licences between 1st January and 30th April, 1948.

Mr. Butcher

Is it not a fact that we always had a surplus of potatoes until we had the present Ministry of Food?